Casey Dillon - Partner | Creative Director

Casey Dillon is the founder of Bronze, a design company for independent drink brands.

Casey works with passionate founders to bring their brands and ideas to life. Although there is a keen focus on wine, more on that later, he works with a range of beverages, such as spirits and tea.

I had to ask if the wine was intentional, and it turns out, it was.

This business was born out of a love of design and wine and discontentment in his job. With thoughts on what he could do next, it turned into doing what he loved, for the kinds of people he would love to work with and brands he could build.

What started as a conversation with an acquaintance who he knew he would like to work with, turned into his first freelance client, and a ten-year working relationship and the many clients found along the way.

He notes that for the first few years of business, he would sit down every December and think about getting a real job in the new year. Over the years that feeling would creep in, but once he shook the feeling, he was able to focus on what he really wanted to do with the business.

As we chat, it is hard not to notice an office filled with memories and life and what some would describe as stuff. Books and bottles, merchandise and freebies line the shelves from wall to ceiling, but it seems that every single one has a story, like every good collection should.

This love of design and packaging began a long time ago. His grandfather was a seller of beer, and so Casey recalls the countless trips in his truck with kegs and cases loaded into the back, sales trips spent gathering the ephemera of the day - posters and beer mats - some of which he still has to this day.

What he does is a mix of business and pleasure. Two worlds colliding and finding some magic in between. Based in Oakland, his work means regular one to two hour trips to wine country - not too shabby for a client meeting.

He notes that there are worse places to work from, and the fact that his work enables him to meet these interesting people. In wine country, he tells me that people are generally there for one of two reasons. The first is to build something, to inspire and build a community. The second often applies to those in the industry, who love what they do but don't want to live for the weekend, and wine country allows them to live all through the week.Working with passionate and inspired people is a major driver in determining who he works with.

“If I’m the most excited person in the room about a project's potential, that’s usually not a good sign."

Creativity is something that runs through everything he does in business, with it also offering an outlet for expression. However, a common client quote is that You are so creative, to which he replies, yeah, and you are too. He shares that everyone is creative, and needs to be creative in their jobs, no matter what it is that they do.

Creativity is essential to any job
Inner dialogue is something we tend to struggle with as business owners, as creators, and Casey lets me into a corner of his mind, one where he alters his measures of success and allows himself the chance to look back on what he has achieved.

This is something which changed after having children, and seeing them grow up into small humans. He tells me of a time that one of his kids got frustrated with her drawing, exclaiming that it was wrong, and not very good. Who told her that? He asked. That seemed like a pivotal moment, and definitely a reminder that we are our own worst critics.

Take your phone out and record yourself talking. Would you speak to your best friend like that?
Among the bottles and beer mats, there are a significant number of books that line the walls and the shelves, of which it is difficult for him to choose just one. However, when pressed, he does share one book in particular, titled What do you do with an idea? It is a children's book, but he thinks he gets more enjoyment from it than his kids. I don't want to ruin the premise of the book, but I will say that when Casey shared it with me, it made me tear up more than a little bit.

I’m inspired by people and what they are able to achieve. I want to impart that into my kids.
Now, a man with so many books, I asked if there was a sense of order to them all.

Kind of.

Casey's books are organised into sections, with a selection of must reads that are kept on his nightstand. Don't talk to him about colour-coordinated bookshelves; consider that as a warning. He notes that it is reflective of his form follows function perspective, coupled with a way to break things into categories that are more easily understood; Photography. Fine art. Type Design. Cooking. Wine. Classic Illustration vs punk poster art.

“Take that function first, then make it as beautiful as it can be. This is probably why I think strategy is so important. I’m trying to give meaning and understanding first, then applying the aesthetics to support that."

Casey is a long-time PRO community member, and he notes that it is the thing he needed but didn't know that he was looking for. As someone who spent the first 15 years in business trying to figure it out on his own, he credits the community with offering him the support and knowledge to change things.

We riff on the idea of entrepreneurship and what the word entrepreneur actually means. To him, it seems like the word is reserved for the ones who have multiple businesses, or for the business owners that went out on their own perhaps 20 or 30 years ago, perhaps a word that has some archaic notes to it.

Is it a title we should just learn to embrace?

Or should we let it go?

What really is an entrepreneur, what is it and what is the cut off for being one?

Whether a self-titled entrepreneur or not, Casey has now been in business for 15 years and has built a life around doing something that he loves.

You can find Casey via BRONZE, and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Contact details for Casey